Myths about Hospice

Christine Waldie, Director, HCS Hospice

Myth: Hospice is a place.

Hospice care is provided in the comfort of the patient’s “home.” This can be in any environment in which a person lives, including a nursing home, assisted living facility, or residential care facility, private home, or a relative’s home.

Myth: Hospice is only for cancer patients.

Hospice is for anyone who has a life limiting illness who wants to focus on their comfort vs. trying to cure the illness. Cancer is only one of many life limiting illnesses. Other diagnoses include but not limited to: heart diseases, lung diseases, all dementias, kidney disease and liver disease.

MythHospice means that the patient will die in a few days.

The Medicare Definition of Hospice is “Your doctor and the hospice medical director certify that you are terminally ill and probably have less than six months to live.” Whenever someone decides they no longer want treatment or the doctor determines cure is no longer an option, the earlier an individual receives hospice care, the more opportunity there is to stabilize a patient’s medical condition and help the patient and family focus on their quality of life.

Myth: Hospice provides 24-hour care.

The hospice team (which includes nurses, social workers, home health aides, volunteers, chaplains, and bereavement counselors) visits patients intermittently. However, the hospice team is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week for support and any extra visits needed.

MythHospice means giving up on life and hope.

When a cure is no longer possible, hospice provides the type of care most people say they want at the end of life–comfort and quality of life. Hospice helps patients and families to focus on improving quality of life and keeping people comfortable.

MythHospice care just keeps dying people heavily medicated; all they focus on is the physical process of dying.

Hospice pain and symptom management is highly specialized and tailored to each individual. Hospice care is to ensure the highest quality of life possible to live each day until the end. Hospice focuses on physical, psychological, social and spiritual care for the patient and their families.

Myth: Giving opioids (i.e. Morphine) to a terminally ill patient will hasten death.

Opioids, often called narcotics, are used in hospice care when needed to keep patients comfortable. Research shows that the use of opioids does not lead to a quicker death. Withholding pain medication at the end of life can lead to more distress and suffering for the patient.

For more information on Hebrew Health Care’s Visiting Nurses and Hospice,please call